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Commentary: Here’s Why You Need to Vote in the California Recall Election

We cannot afford to be complacent and watch like spectators as our rights are rolled back, our interests are ignored, and our power is discounted. This recall election will be a crucial test of our will as voters.

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Young woman voting from home. She is filling papers to send by mail for the upcoming presidential election.

On September 14, a special election will be held to determine whether Governor Gavin Newsom should be recalled. This is only the fourth time in American history – that a state has held a gubernatorial recall election.

The last gubernatorial recall election in California took place nearly 20 years ago.

This recall election was triggered after the Secretary of State certified that 1.7 million Californians signed a petition demanding a vote to remove Newsom from the office he assumed in January 2019.

Under state law, to initiate a recall, proponents need to collect the signatures of enough registered voters to equal 12% of the turnout in the prior governor’s race.

The recall ballots will ask two questions. The first is a simple yes-or-no question: should Newsom be recalled.  If 50% or more of voters mark ‘NO’ then the effort to recall Newsom is defeated.

However, if more than 50% mark ‘YES’ then the second question comes into play: who should replace him? There are 46 names on the ballot, and the candidate with the most votes, as dictated by state law, will become governor for the remainder of Newsom’s term – which is through January 2023.

Whether or not you support Newsom, your vote in this election matters.

When we cast a vote, we win. We are represented. That’s the power that lies at the heart of the democratic process. It is the beauty of having free and fair elections.

Black Americans have a long history of struggling to exercise their right as citizens to vote. Those who came of age before 1965, less than 60 years ago, felt it all too keenly, particularly in the South, where they were systematically turned away from polling places.

Once they secured the vote, the idea of not even attempting to participate in an election would have been an abdication of their rights as Americans.

The people we entrust with our vote to lead us — whether it is at the federal, state, or local level – are responsible for developing policies and legislation that affect how safe we are in our homes and communities, our access to quality health care and education, the financial opportunities available to us, and more.

An outcome of the 2020 Presidential election cycle has been an extension of the unprecedented assault on voting rights beginning with the Supreme Court decision, Shelby v. Holder (2013), weakening the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and has led to more laws restricting our ability to vote.

California has taken extraordinary steps to remove barriers and increase access to the polls, setting the national standard for what free and fair elections should look like.

We cannot afford to be complacent and watch like spectators as our rights are rolled back, our interests are ignored, and our power is discounted. This recall election will be a crucial test of our will as voters.

Sometimes it might feel like democracy happens election by election, step by step, once every two or even four years.

But democracy doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t take a day off. It’s a constant process, happening all the time, whether we choose to engage or not. It’s messy, ugly, hard work.

Not voting is just as much an act of democracy as is voting – refusing to participate is a choice.

Every registered voter will automatically receive a ballot. Vote by mail started Aug 16. The last day to register to vote is August 30.

However, you can “conditionally” register and vote at your county elections office or polling location after the voter registration deadline, up to and including Election Day.

It’s a chance we must seize, regardless of party affiliation – our democracy, our community, our lives depend on it.

Rick L. Callender, Esq. is the President of the California/Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP and serves as a member of the National NAACP board of directors.

City Government

A New Mayor in 2022 Must Take Major Steps in Their First 100 Days

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by Council and community.

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Hands place ballot envelope into a ballot box/ Arnaud Jaegars via Unsplash

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by Council and community.

The mayor also selects and hires the city administrator, appoints members of key boards and commissions and sets the direction for the administrative branch of government, thus having a major impact on what action gets taken.

In recent years, the City Council has adopted numerous laws and funded positions and projects – many of which have not been implemented, such as providing gun tracing and cracking down on illegal guns, civilianizing special events, providing pro-active illegal dumping remediation, a public lands policy to prioritize affordable housing, direction to provide healthier alternative locations to respond to homelessness, and many more.

In order to ensure that we build a safer and healthier future for Oakland, it is vitally important to ensure that we elect leadership for the executive branch with the dedication and commitment to take the actions needed to fulfill the needs of our communities.  

With serious struggles facing our communities, it is vital that the next mayor take immediate action in their first hundred days – and so, I am undertaking to provide proposals regarding what the next mayor can, and should, do in their first 100 days in office.  

These efforts will need to include recruitment and retention for the workforce, effective relationships with county government and neighboring cities to solve common problems, working with stakeholders including to expand equitable economic development and housing for all income levels, presenting and passing proposals at Council and bringing in and properly stewarding the finances needed.  

Even within the first 100 days, a mayor can accomplish a great deal, including taking action to implement vitally needed services that already have Council authorization and thus can be brought about more quickly.

This is the first installment, listing of some of the first items that the next mayor can and should do to build a healthier Oakland, and which should be factors in our decision-making in the year ahead.

 

1.     Ensure implementation of the directive to prioritize stopping the flow of illegal guns and stopping gun violence, including implementing gun tracing, tracking and shutting down sources of illegal guns, and providing immediate response to shooting notifications.

2.     Remove blight and illegal dumping, implement pro-active removal of blight rather than waiting for complaints, incorporate blight removal throughout city efforts (rewards program, summer jobs program, etc).  Clear up backlog and establish a new normal that it is not okay to dump on Oakland.

3.     Provide healthier alternatives for homeless solutions, including safe parking/managed RV sites and sanitation/dump sites, to reduce public health risks. Partner with the County and others.

4.     Implement previously approved Council direction to switch to the use of civilians (rather than sworn police) to manage parades and special events.  Help ensure community and cultural events can go forward without excess costs undermining them. Strengthen the arts and economy and equity of event permitting system and ensure that expensive police resources are directed where they are needed, rather than wasted on watching parades.

5.     Implement previously approved public lands policy to ensure using public lands for public needs, with a priority for affordable housing.

6.     Make it easier for local residents and small businesses to grow, build and expand by providing coherent and simplified permitting and by implementing the Council-funded direction to provide evening and weekend hours and easy online access, to allow people to do projects like adding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and make other renovations and construction projects more timely.

7.     Work with stakeholders and community to advance effective and equitable revitalization of the large public properties at and around the Oakland Coliseum, including with housing for all income levels, jobs and business development, sports and entertainment, conventions and hotels.

8.     Work to speed the filling of vacancies in needed city staff positions and improve recruitment, retention and local hiring, to help provide vitally needed services, including for cleanup, parks upkeep, gun tracing, and other needs.

9.     Fire prevention and climate resiliency.  Our region is facing growing dangers from climate change and fire risk, and we must take action to reduce and remedy risk and protect our communities with a more resilient future, including by planning for and starting fire prevention and brush remediation activities earlier in the year, improving brush removal on public land as well as private, fully staffing the fire department and improving public infrastructure to protect cleaner air and reduce risks.

10.  Job training and pathways.  Some industries face challenges finding enough prepared workers while many in our community also need access to quality jobs.  Support and connect job training programs and quality job policies with growing sectors and ensure Oaklanders are prepared for vital openings in needed jobs while allowing our community to thrive.

 

 

 

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Barbara Lee

On Barbara Lee, Afghanistan and Covid Scapegoating

All ye news consumers are probably thinking more about Afghanistan in these last two weeks than at any point in the last 20 years.

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and members of his delegation take off from Kabul International Airport aboard a Black Hawk helicopter en route to Khowst province during a trip to Afghanistan, Dec. 4, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison

All ye news consumers are probably thinking more about Afghanistan in these last two weeks than at any point in the last 20 years.

But if you live in Alameda County, thank goodness you have a representative who showed some backbone against the jingoistic rhetoric from the very beginning.

That would be Rep. Barbara Lee, who after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, stood up to other members of Congress and just said no to retaliating against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

On Sept. 14, 2001, 420 members in Congress said yes to military force.  98 Senators went along with them. 

Your congress member was alone in speaking the truth for peace.  

Lee warned of “perpetual war,” and she said, “However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, ‘Let’s step back for a moment, let’s just pause, just for a minute, and think through the implications of our actions today, so that this does not spiral out of control.’”

It was a call for a mindful moment. Politicians typically show no skill at that. 

Want to see the cost of being less than mindful in politics? The U.S. has spent by some estimates close to $2 trillion in Afghanistan since 2001. We’ve lost more than 2,400 military lives, tens of thousands of injured sons and daughters. 

And now we are in a “smoldering” situation. It’s like extracting yourself from a bungled divorce. The Trump administration began negotiating with the Taliban and presented artificial deadlines. That was the chaotic plan President Biden inherited. It was really negotiating a surrender rather than a withdrawal. But it means the Taliban is dictating everything. The U.S. wants to extend beyond Aug. 31? Taliban says, no and has “red-lined” the date.

The group that had offered to surrender to the U.S. 20 years ago,  is now making a mockery of the U.S.

Surely, the Afghanistan situation wouldn’t be quite this way if we had more leaders like Barbara Lee who dared to be mindful when it mattered. The situation remains smoldering.

African Americans Scapegoated

Donald Trump called the Coronavirus the ”China Virus,” and “The  Kung-Flu” for laughs. That kind of talk scapegoated Asian Americans and made them targets of the Trump hoard. More than 9,000 instances of anti-Asian hate have been recorded since the pandemic began by the group #StopAsianHate, based at San Francisco State University. 

Scapegoating on the virus is dangerous and racist. 

Now African Americans are getting a taste after Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick went on Fox News saying that unvaccinated African Americans in Texas are the cause of the virus spread in Texas.

It’s just wrong. Compared with Texas’ Black residents, nearly four million more white Texans are unvaccinated, said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP.  He even points out that four million fewer Hispanics are vaccinated compared to Blacks. The stats don’t justify blaming  African Americans in Texas for the spread of Covid.

But what did we expect to hear from Patrick, a former broadcaster and talk host. He knows how to incite an audience and “make the phones ring.” As Trump did, the TV showman. As does Larry Elder, the African American Republican talk host atop the polls of people who want to be governor if Gov. Gavin Newsom is recalled. 

Lesson. Don’t listen to nor elect talk hosts. At least the irresponsible ones.

Need a model for public servant in elective office? We have one in Alameda County in Congress.

It’s Rep. Barbara Lee.  

Try putting Elder next to Lee. He wouldn’t stand a chance.

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Commentary

Rep. Cori Bush Made ‘Good Trouble’ to Stop Threat of Mass Evictions 

Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who died last year, liked to tell activists that building a better world depended on people being willing to make “good trouble.”

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Representative Cori Bush/Twitter

Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who died last year, liked to tell activists that building a better world depended on people being willing to make “good trouble.” Rep. Cori Bush has just given us an example of effective troublemaking that should inspire us to action.

Bush is in her first term as a member of Congress representing St. Louis, Missouri. She didn’t come with a typical resume of prestigious college and law school degrees and previous political jobs. Bush got into politics protesting police killings of unarmed Black men. Because her work was seen and respected in her community, she beat the odds and beat a long-time member of Congress.

Bush has experienced eviction herself. She knows how disruptive and dangerous it can be. So, she wasn’t going to stay quiet when Biden administration officials and congressional leaders were ready to let a COVID-19 moratorium on evictions expire and put millions of families at risk.

The temporary eviction ban was put in place by the Centers for Disease Control last September as a public health measure. Millions of families fell behind on rent because of the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic. The CDC knew that forcing those families out of their homes and into shelters or onto the streets in the middle of a pandemic would cost lives.

That original moratorium expired on July 31. It made no sense to kick people out of their homes just when the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus was pushing the pandemic into another deadly phase.

But the Supreme Court’s right-wing justices had signaled their disapproval for the moratorium. So, the White House and congressional leaders played a bit of last-minute hot potato before Congress left town for its August recess without taking action to protect the families at risk of homelessness.

Bush grabbed a sleeping bag and camped out on the steps of the U.S. Capitol for several days to shame people into action. You can be sure that many of her colleagues didn’t like being put on the spot as they went on vacation. Some of them anonymously criticized her tactics. Her hometown paper said she was ignoring “political reality.” Her right-wing critics ranged from dismissive to abusive.

But it worked. Bush’s troublemaking meant that public officials could not just deflect attention from the crisis that was about to engulf thousands of families. And the White House worked with the CDC to extend protection against eviction for the vast majority of people at risk.

The new moratorium is being challenged in court, and it will expire in October. But it is buying time for families at risk. It is giving local officials a chance to get money into the hands of people who need it.

Bush’s good troublemaking also brought needed attention to the fact that Congress had approved $46.5 billion to help renters and their landlords, but some states and counties hadn’t distributed a penny of it even months after they got the money.

When I saw people criticizing Bush for her tactics, I thought of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” He wrote that he had almost concluded that a greater stumbling block to the freedom movement than the KKK was the white moderate more devoted to “order” than justice, who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.”

Bush saw that families behind on rent were facing a crisis point. Our democracy is also facing a crisis point. In state after state where Republicans are in control they are imposing new barriers to voting as they try to prolong and expand their hold on power. They want the power to resist progress on racial equity, access to health care, and all the other issues that motivated people to turn out and vote for Joe Biden.

We can’t let them win. Voting rights activists across the country are organizing. They’re looking for people to help them make good trouble. When that opportunity comes your way, think of John Lewis and Cori Bush. And answer the call.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way.

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